McALESTER — Casey Jones probably didn’t expect much when she started attending McAlester track and field practices in the spring of her freshman year. She’d played basketball when she was younger, she said, only tried track because her friends invited her, and only started running hurdles because coach Richard Carney made her.
Carney’s recommendation worked out pretty well: as a senior, Jones is now a three-time state qualifier and potential state champion in the hurdles.
“She had great explosion,” Carney said of Jones as a freshman. “She had not great speed, but she had speed enough that I thought she’d be successful at the hurdles. Good flexibility.”
Born in McAlester and a product of McAlester Public Schools, Jones started out running just the 300-meter hurdles. The longer distances between the hurdles in the 300 made them easier for less-experienced runners, and Jones made State in the 300.
As a sophomore, Jones added the 100-meter hurdles to her repertoire. The shorter distance required her to learn a new form, jumping every three steps instead of every five for the 300.
“I just took it one hurdle at a time,” Jones said. “You kind of have to find a rhythm.”
Jones made State in both the 100 and 300 hurdles as a sophomore in 2012. That year’s team also won Regionals, and the season still stands out as one of Jones’ favorite track memories.
“I liked the people I ran with,” Jones said of that 2012 season. “Most of them are gone now.”
The 2013 Buffaloes and Lady Buffaloes didn’t have a home track on which to practice, as the one at Hook Eales Stadium was under construction. That didn’t prevent Jones from returning to State in the 100 and 300 hurdles, finishing eighth and second, respectively.
“It’s exciting, because there are lots of people, but you do get nervous, running with the fastest people,” Jones said of her first time at State. But as a sophomore, “I kind of knew what was going on,” and as a junior, “I wasn’t really nervous.”